Charlie’s story

“My name is Charlie, but my name has not always been Charlie. I have been called a lot of different things growing up. A free school meals, a kid in council housing, a young carer, a gifted student, an absent student, homeless, and not worth it.

Growing up, I did things I thought I was meant to do. I took care of my sister. I paid my first rent when I was 16. I worked 30 hours while going to college full-time to support my family, and boiled water on the stove when we didn’t have electricity.

And I thought that was normal. Through it all, I wasn’t me, I wasn’t Charlie. I was doing what I should do, what I needed to do. I went to uni at 18, but shortly after that, the pandemic hit, so it wasn’t the best uni experience. During that difficult time (for lots of people), I was diagnosed with ADHD.

For some people that’s kind of considered the ‘fun one’. It’s like, “you’re just a little different and you can multitask – that’s so cool!”. Not really. I describe it as: somebody can say something to you, you need to do a task… and you turn to stone. You are frozen. There’s nothing you can do. People are getting at you to do something, and every time they yell, a little bit more of you shatters. And you’re so confused because they won’t give you the time to put yourself back together again. They’re saying, why can’t you do it? And you’re asking, why can you?

I thought getting this diagnosis would change things. I had figured it out! But it got worse. I got very, very ill in my last year of uni, meaning I had to move home away from my friends. I spent six months in a single room on a mattress on the floor, because we didn’t have the money for the bed frame.

I remember going to the hospital at one point. My mum took me, and the whole car journey there I had a blindfold on because my eyes weren’t used to the sun for so long. It seems kind of insane. It was post-lockdown, why was I still inside? But I couldn’t move.

After this, I’d like to say that it all changed. I persevered, and I came out of it a totally different person.

But I’d be lying. I had changed. I was different – for the first time in my life, I wasn’t all those other names. I was just Charlie. And it was the scariest thing of all.

So I did something kind of stupid and decided to move to Brighton.  Packed up everything within two weeks. Moved here. And just started anew. It was scary. It was difficult, but I was determined that this would be a place where I find out how I could be more me after all this time.

I moved here with some lovely friends, and I found Spear. And through Spear, I learned the language I needed to articulate why I felt this way, and why I’d done all these things before. I realised that I wasn’t alone. And I realised that there were some really cool people who were just like me and that I really enjoyed hanging out with people.

I began to take on self-leadership, to realise – it isn’t my fault, but I still need to do something about it. I need to take that step forward every time. And it was tough and difficult and there were some really bad days. Days when I didn’t want to commit. But in the end, I think I’ve improved quite a bit. I’m very proud of myself. Now it’s not a question of if I will achieve what I want, now it’s a question of when.

It might not be soon, but that’s okay, because I’ve got the tools I need to do it. I’ve got the mindset I need to do it. And I think I’m ready.

I’m currently in the recruitment process for a job that I really care for. I’m considering my future for the first time in a very long time. I can go outside to see the sun and it doesn’t hurt my eyes.”

Charlie completed the Spear Programme at Spear Brighton in April 2023 and is now working as a social worker. Huge thanks to Charlie for giving permission to share their story. Charlie is not pictured.